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HOLDING SILVAN by Monica Wesolowska


A Brief Life

by Monica Wesolowska

Pub Date: April 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0986000713
Publisher: Hawthorne Books

A mother explores, morally and emotionally, her decision to forgo medical help and allow her newborn son to die.

Within hours of giving birth to a son, Silvan, Wesolowska learned that he was not the healthy baby they had hoped for. Silvan was plagued with physical problems requiring intervention: a blood clot followed by a seizure. After falling into a coma, he was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, a condition in which the brain doesn't receive sufficient oxygen. Silvan was kept alive over the following weeks with a feeding tube. Though this heart-wrenching book revisits scenes from the author’s Catholic childhood, during which she was consumed with fear of losing her mother, and includes present-day musings on raising the sons she subsequently had, the majority of the narrative unfolds over the month of Silvan's life. Wesolowska describes the grave difficulty of the choice she and her husband faced and, weighing Silvan's "extremely grim" prognosis, why they decided to remove his feeding tube. They were required to meet with the hospital's ethics committee, and their choice to let their son die was met with reactions ranging from outrage to compassion. They took Silvan home, where his system gradually shut down. "Love outlasts grief," Wesolowska concludes. "Though we can't say for certain we made the right choice for Silvan, our love for him has survived." Written in the present tense, the book is an achingly beautiful and honest chronicle, sure to incite mixed reactions. This isn't a memoir aimed to comfort, but rather to reveal one family's experience, and Wesolowska presents her story with grace.

Sad, controversial and illuminating.